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Press - Volunteers fought farm and village fires since 1873


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Press - Volunteers fought farm and village fires since 1873

-- Newspaper clipping --
New London Buyers' Guide/Hortonville Centennial / Press-Star
August 16, 1994 - page 2
no byline listed, presumed by Leona Mech
(Posted with permission from the Press-Star/Buyers' Guide a division of Journal Community Publishing Group)

Volunteers fought farm and village fires since 1873

Since 1873, Hortonville [the Township - on April 10, 1895 Hortonville was incorporated, thus dividing the Township land into the Town of Hortonia and the Village of Hortonville] has had a volunteer fire department, but for its first half century, people weren't the only volunteers

The fire engine was horse drawn, but the city did not keep a team of horses for that specific purpose. So when the fire bell was rung to call the volunteers, any team of horses on Main St. was liable to find itself hitched to the engine and whisked away to a fire.

The Hortonville businessmen purchased the village's first fire department and Dite Collar was named the department's first fire chief.

It was equipped with an 8-man hand pumper and water was used from Black Otter pond or hauled in barrels and other containers.

Besides Chief Collar some of the village's first firemen were August Schultz, Mike Ritger, Wenzel Gitter, Fred Herbst, John Hagen, Chris Hagen, Webb Collar and John Klein.

In 1881, village residents donated their own time to build the village's combined fire department and village hall, that was used till the new fire hall was built.

One of the fires fought by the early department was in the 1880's on the south side of Main St. It burned a shoe store and barbershop, along with a residence behind one of the stores, all belonging to Ottamar Buchman.

Firemen and citizens were able to save other businesses by using wet blankets besides the pumper and a bucket brigade.

In 1914, the Catholic church steeple in Stephensville was struck by lightning and the Hortonville fire department was called to assist when the local residents couldn't reach the blaze. The fire was finally extinguished, but the only way to quench the flames was from inside the church shooting the water directly up into the steeple.

The village purchased the department from the businessmen in 1916. In 1925, the horses on Main St. were finally given a rest, as the city purchased a four-wheel drive fire engine. At the same time, it purchased a fire siren to replace the bell that had called the firemen for so long.

While that siren was replaced in 1953 the old fire bell still stands ready to ring out its call, if a power failure should silence the village's siren.

In 1932, the Hortonville Rural Fire Department was formed to serve the townships of Ellington, Greenville, Hortonia and the village of Hortonville. Harris Hauk was named its first fire chief and he held that position till 1950.

Today, 22 volunteers man the equipment in the village, while another 21 from Ellington and 16 from Hortonia are on call for rural fires.

The equipment has been continually updated and added to. Today the department has three trucks, two tankers and a pumper. Another truck is presently on order.

Today, Robert Rindt is the fire chief. He is a barber, and along with all the other firemen, carries on the tradition of the volunteer firefighter. Ed Dorn is the chief engineer and treasurer while Ray Weiland is assistant chief, Ron Korth is president, and Melvin Pankow is the secretary.

PHOTO: An old Hortonville fire engine in 1925.